Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Hand spun honeymoon

Here is the first skein of the olive and red hand spun all plied and set. I love the way the olive brings the red forward rather than overpower it. It was definitely the right choice. Notwithstanding the usual lumps and bumps it is in general a sort of four ply weight so I think I will try a triangular shoulder shawl. I have an extra skein of the olive roving so I can get a more substantial piece by bordering the shawl in solid olive if necessary.

Every time I spin the colours do something new and interesting and surprising. As I have said before, the learning process is fascinating - not sure I have drawn any conclusions yet but it is a lot of fun trying things out!

Sunday, 29 July 2007

Happy couples

Good things come in pairs today!

First, it was touch and go and took some shameless acts of knitting in public to achieve but the Tour de France Entrelac socks were completed almost at the moment the Tour closed. Phew! I have to say that I had no expectations of finishing these so am feeling quietly proud. They were an interesting knit although I'm not sure I would do them again. I will try wet blocking them to sort out some of the lumps and bumps and might feel a little better about them. Mind you, I think a few tiers of entrelac at the top of a sock would look terrific and can definitely see myself doing that. My intention was to use this as a learning experience which it most certainly was.

A big thank you to Meg and Debby for organising the Knit Along and for the very entertaining and informative daily digests. I will really miss them now that the Tour is over - look forward to popping on the bicycle clips again in 2008.

I've been doing the final bits and pieces of my unpacking from Norway and have these to show you. The first one, Selbuvotter: Biography of a Knitting Tradition by Terri Shea is both a pattern book for the most wonderful and complex mittens and a history of the mitten knitting tradition in a region of Norway. It's both a fascinating piece of social history which is a real interest of mine and a source book for some gorgeous warm knitted goodies which I am really looking forward to having a go out - makes me almost hope for a chilly winter...

The second book is Invisible Threads in Knitting by Annemor Sundbo which is an exploration of the influence of Norwegian culture, folklore and traditions on knitting. The focus of this book is much more on the narrative with patterns offered for illustrative purposes. There are still some I would like to try, like the house slippers and beaded pulse warmers for example.

When I set off on this trip I didn't appreciate the importance of textile arts in Norway and had a huge amount of enjoyment exploring it. I found the country beautiful and the people that I met friendly and welcoming. I can't wait to come back and explore more.

And finally, the end of the entrelac sock challenge means that I have been able to return to my other projects. Spinning has rather taken a back seat with all my globetrotting but I have now finished spinning the olive singles. Ladies and gentlemen, be upstanding please and allow me to present the happy couple. Don't they look lovely? There may be plying tonight... ooer missus....

Friday, 27 July 2007

Tour update - not doped but dopey, plus bonus Norwegian content

In keeping with my theme of the seven deadly sins I have a confession to make. My performance in the Tour has so far been characterised by sloth. I started the TdeF knit along in pursuit of the polka dot jersey as I convinced myself that the entrelac socks would be really really hard. As it turns out they are a bit fiddly, but not too tricky at all. However, instead of aspiring to new challenges I have been pedalling languidly along like M Hulot on his Holiday. I have been wandering off playing with other projects then rejoining the peleton for a bit of a chitchat before ambling off somewhere else the moment something colourful catches my eye.

I have,however, seen the error of my ways. By making the socks my commuting project for the last few days I have surprised myself with the progress that I have made so much that in a fit of enthusiasm I hereby dedicate myself to the late pursuit of the green jersey and am planning a sprint finish. I am determined to get these blighters done before the end of the Tour. So, I have pumped up my tyres, shaved my legs and polished my needles. I may have left it too late to make my break but I've been slip streaming for days and will give it my best shot!

Thanks to everyone who commented on my last post. The book I am working from is called Poetry in Stitches by Solveig Hisdal. She takes traditional Norwegian costume and textiles as a stepping off point and creates knitting patterns which put a modern twist on the designs.It really is a beautiful book which I have had for some years waiting to pluck up the courage to try knitting from it. I am absolutely delighted that there are a couple of people who have made the same jumper (particularly Woollywarbler whose version looks absolutely stunning by the way.) and lived to tell the tale. I may be looking to you for moral support in the not too distant future.

Another book which uses this approach is Norsk Strikkedesign which is a collection from a range of Norway's leading knitwear designers all giving their interpretation of Norway's significant knitting tradition. It is equally gorgeous.

I also brought back a couple of Rauma patterns which are much more traditional in their approach but show quite nicely the influences used by the designers in the book and are themselves, beautiful and wearable garments. The patterns are in Norwegian but come with a helpful leaflet translating the knitting vocabulary. The language of knitting is, of course, universal.

And well spotted IrisG , the lilac yarn is Garnstudio - you really are a yarn connoisseur!

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Instant gratification and yarn gluttony

This posting will include a brief tour of the deadly sins that I have committed in the last few days. The first one being that despite the fact that the Tour de France is working its way to its drug addled conclusion ( how prophetic that I included a box of aspirins in my first posting...) I am incapable of project monogamy and without a backward glance have cast on for this beautiful Norwegian colour work project instead of pressing on with my entrelac socks. It was the basket of yarn just sitting there - I couldn't help it... It's going well so far although I have read ahead in the instructions and will be requiring a very clear head to fathom them out.

Readers could be forgiven for imagining that I took nothing but a empty bag with me to Oslo whatsoever given the amount of yarn I appear to have brought home with me. I have to admit that packing was undertaken with a level of military precision to get the mountain of yarn in. The final wrestling match with the zips of my rucksack had to be done on the bedroom floor with three falls and a submission. It was worth it though... Here is some lovely soft heathered alpaca which I am planning to use for something in Cheryl Oberle's Folk Shawls.

And this is some jewel bright sock yarn to make the Caspian Sea socks, a free pattern from Interweave Knits. I really have been bitten by the colour work beast haven't I?

I have to confess that this isn't all that followed me home but conscience will only let me disclose in installments...

Let's end on another celebration of the sculptor's art, once again from the Vigeland Sculpture Park which captures a completely different mood. I love the joy and vigour of this one.

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Woolly thoughts and T de F toe from Oslo

I had a wonderful time in Oslo. Once again I was lucky to have a fantastic travelling companion in Elaine, mainly because she is as yarn obsessed as me... We didn't spend the whole time on fibry pursuits but as that is the subject matter of this diary, that's what we are going to concentrate on. However, I am aware of the delicate sensibilities of readers so don't want to overwhelm you all at once. So....


Surely no knitter could look at this picture without their heart skipping a beat. The yarn in the basket is Rauma Finullgarn which is a traditional yarn for Norwegian colour work. This yarn came from Husfliden , the Norwegian Handcraft Society shop. The selection of colours is jaw dropping! The staff there are also very passionate about their crafts. We met one young woman in particular who we spent ages talking about knitting and embroidery with.

Despite my dismal performance with the fair isle socks I am determined to give stranded colour work another bash and how can I fail to be inspired with this lot? I will, of course keep you all up to date with my efforts.

The Finullgarn may be a feast for the eyes but these two beauties are a feast for the fingers. Dale baby alpaca and silk for a couple of shawls.I cannot begin to describe the shine and softness of this stuff. Makes me come over quite unnecessary....

There is more retail therapy to report but I don't know about you but it's all too much for me already.

Back to the more everyday. In between the stash enhancement I did find a few moments to ensure my Tour De France muscles didn't completely seize up and have got myself half way up the second foot.The knitting on these is a lot more even. I realise that when I am struggling with a new technique my grip might be a little..um.. firm so the toe of the second sock is a lot more even than the first.

Finally, a little non knitting content. I just had to include this beautiful image from the Vigeland Sculpture Park in Oslo. I found it incredibly human and moving. Perhaps the lady at the front left her knitting on the bus...

More later....

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Of big adventures and derisory T de F content

It is unlikely that you will be burdened with any further news of my endless sock knitting until at least Monday as I am off to Oslo in Norway for a few days tonight. It will be the first time I have visited any Scandinavian country so I am really looking forward to it. Have I started packing yet? No. Will there be any room in my luggage for anything but shade cards and pattern books? Unlikely, especially as provision needs to be made for the possible purchase of a few balls of yarn..... Thankfully, my friend Elaine is as keen a knitter as I am so we will be very happy making the rounds of the wool shops thanks to the helpful advice and inspiration from Linda at Loop and coming back with the makings of Extraordinarily Complicated Jumpers which it will take some time to pluck up the courage to attempt but I'm sure we'll have fun trying.

And just to prove I am still taking my Tour De France obligations seriously I will be taking my entrelacs with me as my travel project and to break the spell of the second sock you can see I have started already. My, what progress I have made. I have, however, by the cunning ploy of reading the instructions for the Turkish cast on properly, made a much better job of this one than the first - let's hope my luck holds!

Monday, 16 July 2007

Tour De France latest: First sock finis!

After much theatrical huffing and puffing the first sock is finished. I decided not to go for the marathon knee sock variety as this is not a good look for me. Having completed this sock I would observe a few things:
As with most seemingly complicated exercises, when it is broken down into bite sized chunks and the instructions are followed without over analysing them they turn out to be less complicated than it might first appear.
There are a few issues with this first sock that I hope to correct on the second, the toe is a bit lumpy and clumsy. I'm hoping it's my technique, perhaps doing the increases too tightly. It also took me a while to work out how to carry the yarn behind to get it to the right spot to start the next tier so there are a few loose ends to tie off...
All in all it is an interesting project which gives a completely different look to a hand painted yarn. However, it feels a bit clumsy somehow, like it's an exercise in being clever rather than thinking about whether it will produce a well fitted sock. Socks are, after all, essentially practical garments.
Off to grit my teeth and cast on sock two...

Sunday, 15 July 2007

Matchmaker, Matchmaker...

Thanks to everyone for their advice on choosing a life partner for my single. Mr Olive was your unanimous choice for his understated urbanity, so here he is. Scrubs up pretty well doesn't he? Mr Scarlet has taken rejection on the chin. What he needs is a truly vibrant skein which will be able to stand up his less subtle charms.

I have to say that I like the colour even more now it is spun up. The subtle changes in tone give a lovely movement to the singles which wasn't so obvious in the roving.

Every day when I spin I discover something else about the way that colours and textures are affected by the way I process them or place them near each other. I can feel myself becoming more and more eager to experiment and discover. It reminds me of when I have learnt languages. I start off being able to count how many words I know, then as I become more immersed in the language I grapple with understanding and expressing myself and realise what I have yet to know. It feels like that with spinning and colour work right now and I hope it will always feel like this, the excitement and enthusiasm for my chosen craft and the curiosity to experiment.

I decided that I needed a little break from sock knitting and that I had sat and admired my lilac hand spun long enough. I finally chose to try the Clementine Shawlette from the Spring 2007 Interweave Knits. I'm getting my money's worth from this issue. As the yarn is a little heavier (mostly...) than the recommended yarn I am using a larger needle so it will end up slightly larger, which I prefer. It will be good to wear with a winter coat as a scarf but can also be worn as a shoulder shawl. I am pleased with how it is coming up. The yarn is far less over spun than my last skein and is knitting up into a nice soft,open texture with the chevrons in the pattern enhancing the subtle colour changes. This pattern is knitted in two pieces and grafted in the middle. This means I can use every last yard of the yarn and learn a new skill in lace grafting (yikes...)

Friday, 13 July 2007

Menage a trois?

Flaming typical! She lures readers to her blog with the promise of something perhaps a little raunchy and what to we get -another pair of wretched socks...

Ha! I love it when a plan comes together. Here we have the finished Rozas in Cherry Tree Hill semi solid supersock completed on the train this week. Observant perfectionists may notice that the instep pattern isn't quite centred on the sock on the right. I hate it when I finish the first sock, then notice a slight error. Ripping out a whole sock is not an option in this house but I do find myself grappling with whether to repeat the error and have two matching but wrong socks or try and get it right the next time and do the second one better. I tend to favour the second option. What do you think?

Surely, you must be thinking that saucy little bit of French in the title must be referencing my entry in the Tour de France Knitalong. I have indeed turned the heel on my queen of the mountains entrelac extravaganza and am advancing like an ageing lothario up the leg. Am I planning an extra sock in case I lose one through dressing in a hurry and leaving down the back stairs? Mais non...

The menage a trois to which I refer concerns this highly eligible bobbin of hand painted singles that I have spun this week. I want to spin her against a toning roving but have discovered that this single has not one but two amorous suitors. They may both ply her with gifts... oh that's dreadful I'm stopping now....

Let's cut to the chase. Should she go for the sophisticated debonair olive green to bring out her cooler tones or the passionate scarlet to speak to her fiery nature?

A little bit of each is not an option, far too swinging and continental. We are British after all. Off for a nice cup of tea and a biscuit thank you very much!

Thursday, 12 July 2007

Tour de France News: She's made it up the straight...

...But will she lose it on the turn?

Never in the history of this blog has a knitted article come under such close scrutiny. Will the pressure and constant hounding by the press become too much for this youngster? With three appearances already this week will she confound her critics? Against all the odds she has turned the heel in a record breaking time but does she have the class for rising to the challenge and sailing through those fiendish little triangles she needs to manoeuvre to rejoin the peleton? Will we see her make history and press on towards the end of the leg marking the halfway point in this epic adventure?

Triumph or tragedy - it's all in the lap of the gods - over to you Harry....

Monday, 9 July 2007

Look - no socks!

This episode is guaranteed entirely sock free.

Can you tell how excited I am? Look what I've made! This is the pencil roving I bought from the Yarn Yard at Woolfest last week. I took 100g of hand paint and 100g of semi solid, spun them into singles and plied them against each other. The effect of the solid is to soften and add a unity to the hand painted element. I have to say that as a new spinner, every time I undertake a new project I learn something new and feel that my skills are improving. Whilst there are still a few lumps and bumps that give the yarn its character the yarn is far less over spun than my previous pieces of work. One of the things that gave me most pleasure is that I finished plying with next to nothing left on either bobbin - I had managed to get almost identical yardage from both! I still can't quite believe it.

I estimate that there are just over 500 metres of yarn here so I am thinking of using it to make a small shawl which should show off the character of the yarn and make the most of its glorious next to the skin softness. I am so pleased with this yarn. It gives me a little glow every time I look at it. I have of course, loaded up the bobbin for my next project - I just can't get enough...

There's no point to making all this interesting yarn if it isn't to be put to practical purposes. These are the Rib and Cable Mitts from the Spring 2006 Interweave Knits which I am making using my most recent batch of hand spun yarn. I am adapting the pattern slightly by omitting the cables and contrast edging. I have also given them a slightly longer cuff as I don't like a draught blowing up my sleeve! I have kept them as simple as possible to show off the subtle colourings of the yarn. The mitts are knitting up pretty well although there are a few over spun patches and variations in yarn weight to deal with. I have learned that with handspun it is important to take overall measurement into account rather than relying on row counts to ensure evenness.

Lastly, one small final purchase from Woolfest - ebony glove needles, super small needles just right for making fingers and thumbs without feeling all fingers and thumbs! Perfect.

Sunday, 8 July 2007

And they're off...

Just a quick post to say that I have made a start on the Tour De France Knitalong Entrelac Socks. I have to say that I was quite daunted by this pattern as it is completely different in construction than any other sock pattern that I have tried. In the end I decided that it is possible to over think these matters so the best thing to do is just to follow the instructions stitch by stitch and see what happens, et voila! I think these socks may need some serious blocking as they are a bit lumpy in places but surprising as it may seem I am enjoying them now I am in the swing of things. Mind you, when I get to the heel it might be a different story...

Woolfest Booty!

Isn't this a feast for the eyes? One of the things I was most looking forward to on this trip was the opportunity to play with so much beautiful roving and for some of it to come home with me. Apart from the greed for colour I also wanted to make sure that I found a range of fibres to build my spinning skills with. Amongst the treasures are some Wensleydale, some Merino and silk blends, some single colour Merino and some Corriedale and Mohair blend. I think it will give me hours of entertainment over the coming months.

The other wonderful acquisition is the oak swill basket by Owen Jones that the roving is arranged in. I think it is the most beautiful object made even more so that it is a traditional craft from Cumbria being kept alive by one man's enthusiasm and by the look of the process as he demonstrated it, very strong thumbs!

More aesthetic pleasure next in the shape of these beautiful buttons. The simplest of garments can be made extraordinary by the addition of a dramatic button. I didn't get completely carried away by my magpie desires for pretty, shiny things. My new spinning habit is an opportunity for the acquisition of a whole range of new equipment. Mind you, I think this equipment is beautiful too. It is all made from wood, which is warm and tactile. The nostepinne in particular is to my mind a work of art.

One of the other pleasures of this festival is the opportunity to bring away ideas and information. Not only that which I bring with my eyes and ears but also the wealth of written information that can be taken away for future consumption. These back copies of Spin Of and Wild Fibers are another part of the store of collected wisdom that I will use to improve my skills and understanding.

And finally, my most geeky acquisition. Alongside my enthusiasm for collecting fibre arts books I have a great love of dictionaries. What could be better than a book which combines both passions! With the help of this book, Japanese, Icelandic and Norwegian knitting patterns will no longer be a mystery to me. The knitting world really is my oyster.

Saturday, 7 July 2007

I'm pedalling as fast as I can....

You may have noticed the spotty jersey in the sidebar on the right. That means that I have joined the Tour De France Knitalong. I must disappoint you immediately by stating very firmly that I will not be seen risking life and limb trying to knit and cycle around the streets of east London. This is more of an homage to the spirit of the Tour interpreted in knitting terms. We have self selected into groups represented by the various colours of jerseys worn by the competitors to show their success in the range of challenges that the Tour encompasses.

The jersey that I have chosen to participate in is the one that represents the King (or in my case Queen) of the Mountains which is the rider who manages the vertiginous and eye popping climbs along the course in the best time. I like this class as we are invited to try something that really challenges us with the emphasis on stretching our skills rather than struggling to finish.

So, for this challenge, sock lover that I am I have decided that I can't entirely leave my comfort zone but I can have a go at something I have looked at many times and then passed on very quickly muttering 'In your dreams...' I am going to attempt the Entrelac Socks by Eunnie Jang in the Spring 2007 Interweave Knits. They are certainly enough of a challenge and the technique has a French name so I think they will ft the bill. I don't think I will be going for knee length as I don't have much use for that sort of sock (phew!) but I am looking forward to the challenge.

I have chosen to use the May Yarn Yard Sock Club offering although I need to check how the colour runs in the handpaint work in this technique. If they end up looking unbalanced or murky I have a lovely 1950s kitchen cupboard green that will work I think. The green and the hand paint have already been engaging in some rather unsportsmanlike pre race jostling so I think I am going to have to keep them apart.

Better get on... things to do before 3....

Friday, 6 July 2007

The Time Team discovers...

Observant readers are correct - these socks have never before made an appearance on these pages -and here they are finished. They do, however have a chasteningly long and chequered provenance. I started them over two years ago during a trip to Australia. I thought that the long, peaceful hours that I would have communing with nature in the rain forest would be the perfect time to challenge myself to knitting a pair of stranded socks using a design in Charlene Schurch's book Knitting Marvellous Mittens. Now, knitting socks from a mitten book should have started the alarm bells ringing but no, I pressed on regardless. I managed a couple of inches in several hours when my friends were out but I would have turned myself into a social pariah if I had continued giving them the line by line,stitch by stitch concentration that I needed. So, like any good practical knitter I abandoned this conceit and settled for a rather abruptly terminated patterned cuff on an otherwise sober two toned sock and knitted away happily chatting to my friends.

The single sock languished for some months until I plucked up the courage and allowed myself the social isolation necessary to do the cuff on the second sock. Months passed. I got as far as the heel flap then realised I had lost the second ball of pale blue yarn. Then, when I was turfing things out of bags to go to Woolfest I found it and decided it was a sign that they needed to be finished which I did on the train home from work tonight. My conscience is clear. On this particular buried treasure anyway....

Gratuitous closeup of the first and possibly last bit of stranded sock knitting I am likely to do...

In other more contemporary news I have finished the first of the Seacoast scallop socks - I think the pattern works in a not too busy hand paint as well as the two colour version. The finished sock feels really silky so I will use the merino and tencel blend again.

And finally, I'm not the sort of person who generally fills her blog with the inch by inch progress of her socks but in this case the portion of second Roza is merely a supporting player to the nifty little gadget I bought at Woolfest to stop my stitches falling off the needle while in transit.I do most of my sock knitting on the move so I am very happy with these. One of the joys of this festival is that along with the eye catching yarn and fibre and the fascinating livestock there are obscure little objects designed to make a knitters life that little bit more pleasant.

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

I just couldn't wait!

Showing off the joys that I brought back from Woolfest may take some time... My first exhibit is the debut of pencil roving from the Yarn Yard The lovely thing about this roving, apart from it being beautifully soft is that it is sold in 100g skeins of hand paint with a choice of corresponding semi solids. The idea is to ply the painted yarn against the solid to get a more predictable stripe than working with hand paint alone. You may notice that the lilac hand paint roving skein is a little, ahem, short. Note first the gorgeous little mini niddy noddy that also followed me home by the way....

The reason for this shortage is predictable. Despite the fact that I arrived home late on Sunday evening, did I do my unpacking and start the washing machine - did I heck. I removed whatever I was spinning from the wheel, grabbed a spare bobbin and got spinning! It is much softer and easier to draft than the previous pencil roving that I have tried. I am breaking it into sections and just easing the fibres apart before spinning it and it seems to be working well. I can't wait to spin the semi solid and see how it looks plied.